Google Helped Honor FTC Chairman While Agency Probed Company

Photograph by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz holds up an iPad as he speaks during a news conference regarding the agency’s 21-month-long investigation on Google on Jan. 3, 2013 at the FTC headquarters in Washington.

Google Inc. contributed $25,000 to honor the outgoing chairman of the Federal Trade Commission while under investigation by the agency for antitrust violations, Senate records show.

Filings show Google gave the money to Common Sense Media Inc., an advocacy group that holds an annual awards ceremony to recognize those who have helped children navigate media and technology, Bloomberg News reported. Google has supported the group for at least three years.

One of the award recipients in 2012 was FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. Google’s support came at the same time the FTC was investigating whether the company was unfairly disadvantaging competing websites by favoring its own services in search results. The agency ended the 20-month antitrust probe on Jan. 3 with no enforcement action. Google agreed to voluntary changes in some search practices and signed a consent decree regarding the use of certain patents.

“It’s a little bit odd that they’re donating to Common Sense Media at the exact same time they’re trying to influence Jon Leibowitz,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group. “It really looks terrible.”

Samantha Smith, a spokeswoman for Google, and Mitch Katz, an FTC spokesman, declined to comment for the article, as did Marisa Connolly, a spokeswoman for Common Sense Media.

Read the full Bloomberg story here.

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